I’ve written before about the circumstances of us deciding to move here, the birth of our third child and everything, so I won’t recap, and I can’t actually remember how long Russell had the shop for. We moved to this house in July 1986 and he still had it then and for several years afterwards. It never made a great deal of profit as, of course, the turnover of sold items wasn’t anything like as high as it was at the monthly auctions and he made a fixed percentage of profit, so there was never a question of a lucky cheap buy and highly-priced sale. But we’d got a couple of other sources of income and we were frugal generally and money didn’t matter to us for its own sake. I know, of course, that money matters very much if you don’t have enough of it and that we were lucky. Russell had been a bachelor until he was nearly 37 and he’d been young at the time when you could buy a run-down house very cheaply, do it up, sell it and do it again, and he’d done that several times in the 1960s, before he came to Lowestoft. For that reason, we didn’t have a mortgage and that made all the difference.
I’ve been trying to remember how much he charged in commission and I don’t know. I suspect it was 20%. He didn’t have the outlay of buying the items for sale, so there were just the costs of employing Mrs C. and the shop rent, rates and utilities. Once we lived here, he was very engaged with all we were doing as a family – this series of blog posts started because I was telling you how his attitude to a career changed when he found family life so much fun and wanted us all to be together as much as possible. And, sitting here writing this, I am feeling so very lucky. We did talk about it several times over the years, and we always chose a relaxed lifestyle, with a chosen quality of life, over the extra money we could have earned. I don’t know if it was the right choice all the time, though I do know we made the wrong one when Ronan started middle school and I considered getting a job, but decided not to. I was always busy and there were a lot of good things about the way I’ve spent the last 25 years, but it was still the wrong decision – but hindsight is a fine thing. And this isn’t about me, so back to the start of the auctions.
Russell wasn’t a shopkeeper at heart. He enjoyed it when he was busy but there was no question that he’d sit there day after day. But he didn’t want to work full time and he did want to do something he loved. He often had Lowestoft china for sale in the shop and studied it, learned a good deal about it and felt there was a place for a specialist auction. He talked to some contacts, potential vendors and buyers, and took the plunge. The first auction was held on the first Friday in November, 1991.